Monday, May 28, 2012

happy days

Life was normal
now it's wonderful
because of you

Sundays were common
now it's special
because of you

You were just another
now you are my fever
because of

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Destination matters little when the journey is awesome

After graduation, I landed a job fast enough.
It's what I have prepared myself to be--a lecturer in a university.
I teach students the way I love to be taught. I seek answers to the questions that shoot sparks up my spine. I get to mingle in conferences and workshops in places I have longed to visit.
And, I get paid for doing all that.
Pretty sweet deal, no? Life did seem kind of sweet then.
(Especially since I just returned from an awesome trip to India then, and had been feasting my eyes on 7 weeks of Indian beauty)

Two months into my new chapter in life, I aimed to attain financial security by 42 years old (yeah, kinda weird number, figured that 45 seems a bit too old!), and attain professorship before 38. I read books and articles about personal financing, learned the do's and don'ts of the securities investing, and paid lots of attention to the criteria of getting a professorship in Malaysia.

Six months later, it dawned on me that my two latest goals were no easy task. They were difficult in their own right, but more so in my case because they would require me to steer off my initial path. I would need to get out of my comfort zone into ...quite an oblivion zone of uncertainty. My comfort zone is being in a learning environment, where even though I may hold the mantle of a 'teacher', I am learning with and from everyone else involved.

You see, with my salary (which isn't anywhere near pitiful), financial security at 42 is possible only IF i) my salary increases leap and bound, or ii) I maintain an annual return on investment of about 20%, or iii) I marry a remarkably rich (but surely blind) woman who sadly (but conveniently) passes from this earthly plane and leaves me with all her fortune.

In the 2nd week of this semester, I was packing up my stuff in the lecture hall after I finished a class. Students were streaming out of the hall. One student came up to me.
"Hi Dr. My name is not on the attendance list."
"Oh? Have you registered?"
"No, not yet. The class was full, but I will wait for the cap to lift, then I can register."
"Aiyah...this class already almost 70 students! Please consider other sessions. Quite hard for me to teach so many of you."
"No no, I will register for this class."
"What...?! You sure or not?"
"Yes I am sure. For sure I will join this class."

At the end of last semester, one of the students wrote in his/her class evaluation sheet--"Thank you a lot Yao Hua! Last time I very scared and don't dare to talk in front of people. But you gave me confidence to answer in class. Now I think I improved a lot. Thanks!!"

A few weeks ago I met a student from last semester. The first thing she screamed was "Eh Yao Hua~~!", then she said "I miss you". No tinge of embarrassment, no hint of pretence. I really missed them too, and so that was what I replied.

I spend the first 5 minutes of every 2-hour lesson on an in-class sharing of past week's stories and experience. Last week I actually played "Menghitung Hari" for them (well, I almost wanted to sing it too!). Last week's class, I could see them nodding their heads, and at times frowning in deep thought as we discussed world hunger and agriculture. In the same class, I heard them sucked in their breath when I hit myself against the desk, and they all gasped when I slided over the counter.

Every week now I spend at least two hours with each Final Year Project student on guiding and discussing their projects. I have three FYP students this semester. It's amazing and a certain joy to witness the improvement of the students within just two hours. Bakers must feel the same way seeing their bread or cakes rise!

With all of that, I really cannot think of a better occupation than mine. Master Hsing Yun vowed to be a monk for every of his reincarnation and lives; I will be just as content and eager to be a teacher in each and every of my lives. I guess professorship and wealth can take a backseat--they are just by-products of a wonderful, meaningful journey.



Monday, November 21, 2011

i am not a snail

a snail carries a heavy bulky shell on its back.
up a blade of grass, across a sandy patch.
such a hefty burden the shell is,
but the snail carries it still
because it is home
--protection and warmth
it is comfort.

I am not a snail
yet I too had a burden
no less heavier than the snail's.
mine wasn't a home
but it promised warmth
and comfort, dreams come true.

childish promises.
lofty castles built of clouds
rich in romance and fantasy
with ever changing guises. 
when all is said and done
I hold in my gentle hands
air, and fading memories.

I am not a snail
I want no burden.
Not of love or concern,
void of hatred or belittlement.
It's time to skip off the cliff
on which I have stood for years.
Let me unfold my wings
long hidden, forgotten
and flap, flap

thank you, 
for being ever wiser.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Tuesday, October 25, 2011


then again, why would I be?

disappointing is if the expected positive did not happen.

I expected the opposite of the positive, so I shouldn't be disappointed.

but I am.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

love again?

I used to wonder--
how would I know that I am in love?
--then when my eyes, my nose and my ears
perceive only that One,
my skin tingles with desire, and
my heart goes into overdrive
pumping crimson passion into my crumbling mind
--that same question became so foolishly trivial.

like the torrents that flood the banks
it came with force
unstoppable was its spearhead
and left in a blink
relentless was its sacrifice
having abandoned in its wake
carved and molded
a terrain
forever changed
leaving in the sands
words etched with bewildered fingers
'how would I love again, if love isn't you?'

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Graduation: One Year Anniversary

If Blogspot hadn't introduced  this new Dynamic View feature, I wouldn't have looked at my older blog posts.
If I hadn't looked at my older blog posts, I wouldn't have realised that today, Oct 6 2011, marks the 1-year anniversary of my Exit Seminar.

Yes, one year ago I presented my Exit Seminar, and as far as I was concerned, that one hour of bla-bla-bla ended my Ph.D. career. From that day on, I started a new chapter, or as it turned out, new chapters.

Immediately after my exit seminar, I traveled across four States in the USA with my mom. We set eyes and feet on Grand Canyon, Columbia River Valley, Los Alamos and the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta at Albuquerque, Californian Redwood forests and the Xi Lai Temple in L.A. We filled our stomachs with cakes and pastries, salmon and chops, dimsum and what not.

I left my home away from home, and came back to my real home. Accepted a job offer, and on the third day of Chinese New Year, left for India alone. Till now, I still remember the face of that South-Asian lady who, like me, waited the whole night in Starbucks in the LCCT the night I boarded the plane for Chennai. I didn't muster the courage to talk to her, but she was definitely attractive enough that I wish I had.

Spent four weeks in Chennai and three weeks after traveling down south from Chennai. I visited the temples in Chennai, Kanchipuram, Thanjavur, Chidambaram, Madurai and Ramesvaram. I went for two bharatanatyam performances (extremely world-class) and one Kathakali play (definitely top class!). I learned Tamil intensively for four weeks, at the end of which I could speak, write and read Tamil. If the locals go slow, I could understand them too [unfortunately since I left India my Tamil has deteriorated due to lack of practice....shame shame]. At Ramesvaram a priest bathed me in one of the holy wells (there were like >20 of them I think), and there I stood at the edge of the Indian Ocean in awe of her blue-turquoise beauty. At Thanjavur I fell in love with the majestic Periyar Kovil, and at Kanchipuram the simple yet indescribably elegant Kaisalanatha Kovil took a piece of my heart and claimed it since.

I escaped the heat of the lowlands by spending day up in the cool Kodaikanal hills west of Madurai, where the richer kids of the international boarding school there led lives so different from the uncountable poorer kids in the lowlands. I learned to love the sugar-loaded fruit juices of the Indian roadside, and in the backyard of my language institute I enjoyed twenty days of lunchtime among birds with funny headcrests. I saw a salt-farm for the first time in my life, and stepped on cow dung twice. I also finally set eyes on the bronze statue of Lord Nataraja in the Government Museum of Chennai. In many hot afternoons of Tamil Nadu March, I tried my best to run calmly across the baking-hot stone floor of temples, while locals walked and chatted as if they were walking on soft green grass. In Kanchipuram, I taught children in Tamil and English, and I entertained the teachers and the students with songs. I still remember her name--Indra. I wonder if she is still doing the morning rounds bringing children from their shacks to the school?

I can't count the number of friends I made in Tamil Nadu, including Matias and Alex who accompanied me during my one week stint in Kanchipuram. I truly miss all of them. I am still waiting for Sushil to send me a picture of him, his wife and their now 6-month old son.

Came back home again and started my working life immediately. Spent two months doing nothing much else but reading papers, writing proposals and preparing for my visit to Davis.

Went back to Davis almost without telling anyone. The first night I was back in that home away from home, I met up with my very good friend Hanayo, ate at my favourite restaurant in Davis, and untied a knot in my heart for good. The following two months were surreal--busy with my research yet enjoying all the luxuries I had before..Netflix, the library, board games,, a great housemate. A few days before I left for the Ecological Soc. America Meeting, our experiments produced unbelievably pleasing results! Had one of my best Meetings ever, and witnessed the largest bat colony in the world at Bracken Cave. Seeing Jay and his family again was a heartwarming moment for me.

Left Davis (this time much more reluctantly than last year) before I even had time to visit San Francisco, and once again I was back home. Went back to work immediately, and had been occupied since with preparing class materials for my course. Teaching it has been a ride so far (see previous blog post) but it's really enjoyable and rewarding. The students have warmed up to my style, and are now actively asking questions and answering and discussing questions in class. More than half of them now call me by my name instead of "Dr.", for which I am glad.

My friend passed her exam with flying colours, and with that, I have nothing left to worry about in Davis anymore.

There were somethings that I planned to do since graduation, but I haven't done. I haven't enrolled in a bharatanatyam course, and I haven't offered my services to teach at an orphanage yet. I haven't yet published another paper (still in review now...WTH). I have asked three girls out, one gave face and we stayed friends, one told me she was unavailable after a few weeks, and another is still...well....pending. So, the romance front is not exactly stale, but it's not blossoming either. Don't think I can enroll in a bharatanatyam course before Jan 2012, but I am hopeful about the others working out before the end of this year.

What a year it has been!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

on education, and this profession of mine.

it is of course not giving you a durian every day,
for when I am gone, how would you get your durian?
it is better to teach you to pick and open a durian
so that in my absence, you can still enjoy your own durians
still, that's no enough, for what happens when you
too are gone? who will provide durians for the world?
Hence, I need to teach you to open durians, and then
guide you to teach others too.
And how would I know that I've done my part?
--only when you aspire to teach others better
   than I've taught you.

KEY: we don't just make excellent students out of our students, we need to make great and willing teachers out of them.